Love and War for the YouTube generation
Journalist and YouTuber Dave Reardon’s debut novel The Deep Enders is a rollicking young adult adventure tale that delves into both the appalling treatment of indigenous pearl divers and a devastating but almost unknown chapter of WWII history.
Sydney-based Reardon, who together with his wife Ann runs HowToCookThat - one of Australia's largest YouTube channels - uses fast-paced story-telling, humour and colourful characters to unfold a tragic tale.
Set in early 1942, the story follows 16-year-old American Murph Turner who is reluctantly sent to stay with family in the remote Australian town of Broome after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Murph quickly falls in with two other outsiders – a beautiful but mysterious teenage girl named Micki and Aboriginal scamp Banjo Hero, whose cheeky personality and passion for pyrotechnics is masking something much deeper.
All three are trapped in a town crippled by both the fear of Japanese invasion and paranoia over home-grown spying (at one point up to a third of the population of Broome were Japanese, drawn by the pearling industry).
Even as Murph grows closer to Micki, the teenagers find themselves at loggerheads with racist town kids and eventually stumble onto a murder mystery that threatens to envelop everyone they love.
The lively, twisting tale of intrigue has its explosive conclusion on March 3, 1942 when the town is attacked by a squadron of Japanese Zeroes, made up of the same pilots who attacked Pearl Habor three months earlier. What unfolds is the second deadliest attack on Australian soil – one that was almost completely unreported at the time for fear that it would cause panic and, amazingly, has been rarely taught in schools ever since.
The Deep Enders is a work of historical fiction that introduces new audiences to the incredible events in March 1942 when for a short time Broome was quite literally ‘the centre of the Pacific War’. Banjo’s character is particularly loveable but also heart-breaking as he reveals the awful truth about the treatment of the local indigenous population.
In a unique social media experiment, Reardon and his wife Ann engaged their vast YouTube audience in the writing process. Over several months, they asked viewers to contribute suggestions for character names and various plot points. In the end, they received more than 25,000 submissions.
The Deep Enders also has teacher resources available free on the associated website for both middle readers and older students.